The Powell City Council is moving to grant Bentz her wish, and we applaud the council for that. On Feb. 18, it gave initial approval to an ordinance allowing Powell residents to keep four chickens — not roosters, just hens — at their homes. There was no opposition at the council meeting; if none appears, chickens will be legally strutting around a few backyards this spring.
Here’s why we think this is a fair proposal, not a foul one: The eggs produced by free-range chickens are now being labeled “the perfect food.”
Evelyn Nieves, a former New York Times staff writer and columnist, made the point clearly in an article: “A meta-analysis of 17 studies on egg consumption and health discovered that eggs did not contribute — at all — to heart disease or stroke in healthy individuals. On the contrary, eggs raise our good (HDL) cholesterol numbers and change the bad (LDL) cholesterol from small and dense to large and benign. Eggs are also high in iron and protein and two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthine, which protect against age-related eye disorders like macular degeneration and cataracts.”
The Urban Agriculture Movement is gaining speed across the country. People are growing healthy fruits and vegetables in their gardens, collecting eggs from small groups of chickens and enjoying honey produced by bees safely kept.
It may seem a new idea but in fact it is a return to how people lived for centuries. There is a lot to be said for the wisdom of the past, when people saved money by producing their own food, which was healthier than some of the chemically enhanced products we consume today.
In addition, people will benefit from being around animals, and by spending time outdoors. We live in a rural setting and feel a few chickens scratching out a living here, while dining on grass and bugs and offering a charming reminder of our own roots in the land, would be most welcome.
No one is suggesting farming in the city limits. But micro-projects such as this have a place, quite literally, at the table.
Done properly, this proposal makes perfect environmental, economic and aesthetic sense. The three-page ordinance, carefully researched and prepared by City Attorney Sandra Kitchen, reviewed by city officials and unanimously supported by the council, should ensure the hens will not pose any problems.
The number of chickens allowed in homes is being kept at four. Bentz asked for six, but city staff recommended the reduced number and the council agreed. That number of hens should produce about two dozen eggs a week.
No roosters, with their boisterous morning crows, will be allowed to irritate neighbors. The sound hens produce, on the other hand, is minimal. The fowls can only be kept in backyards and must be controlled in enclosures that are kept clean and pest- and rodent-free.
Their waste must be picked up daily, and the amount they produce is minimal anyway, about one-tenth as much as an average dog leaves behind daily. It must be kept in closed containers and removed from residences at least every seven days.
When Bentz brought the idea to the council on Jan. 6, she was well-informed and very prepared. She also made her presentation with wit and a welcome touch of humor, which delighted the elected officials and the audience.
There’s a lesson there for others who bring forth a new proposal.
That may be another reason Bentz could reach her goal of celebrating a century of birthdays. We hope the cake for that party is made with eggs from chickens happily clucking at her home.